Radha Kapuria, "Music in Colonial Punjab" (Oxford UP, 2023)


Music in Colonial Punjab (Oxford UP, 2023) offers the first social history of music in undivided Punjab (1800-1947), beginning at the Lahore court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and concluding at the Patiala royal darbar. It unearths new evidence for the centrality of female performers and classical music in a region primarily viewed as a folk music centre, featuring a range of musicians and dancers -from 'mirasis' (bards) and 'kalawants' (elite musicians), to 'kanjris' (subaltern female performers) and 'tawaifs' (courtesans). A central theme is the rise of new musical publics shaped by the anglicized Punjabi middle classes, and British colonialists' response to Punjab's performing communities. The book reveals a diverse connoisseurship for music with insights from history, ethnomusicology, and geography on an activity that still unites a region now divided between India and Pakistan.

Dr Radha Kapuria is an Assistant Professor of South Asian History at Durham University, United Kingdom. She is a historian of gender and culture in South Asia. Her current research is on the impact of the 1947 Partition on musicians’ lives in India and Pakistan. This ongoing research will feed into her second monograph on musical memories of the Partition, focused on the history of musical exchange across the Indo-Pak border in both South Asia and the British diaspora since 1947.

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